Are you lost in addiction to a substance or harmful behavior? It can be a lonely place. Few understand. How can they? Sometimes, addicts, themselves, don’t understand their behavior any better than anybody else. There is no valid reason for doing some of the things an addict does. There is no logic for continually making decisions that cause pain their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
Addiction is a Disease
Addiction is a disease of a two-fold nature: An obsession of the mind and a physical craving so incomprehensibly strong that the addict is willing to do just about anything to get what he needs. In this state of powerlessness, behaviors, and actions that once would have been unthinkable by the addict become more commonplace.
You Are Not a Monster
For some, calling addiction a disease seems like an easy cop-out. It can appear that way to those who have never suffered the pains of addiction, and it can also seem that way to an addict who is so riddled with guilt and shame that she can’t justify dismissing her actions as mere symptoms of a disease.
Well, acknowledging that addiction is a disease is neither a dismissal of one’s actions nor is it a platform through which one can neatly avoid taking responsibility. Understanding the nature of addiction and accepting the way it’s affected one’s life is the only way to start on a path to recovery. How can you take an honest look at past behaviors and take steps to amend those practices if you don’t understand what they are?
Recovery Starts with Acceptance
Whether or not you even believe that your addiction is a disease, acceptance of the fact that something is wrong is vital. If you’re wondering if you’re an addict, here’s something to consider: People who aren’t addicts don’t even have to question it. You need only ask yourself one question: Has there been a time (probably quite a few) at which I knew I needed to stop using (and even perhaps wanted to) but couldn’t?
The primary symptom of addiction is powerlessness over the next ‘fix’ – whatever it may be (drugs, sex, money, gambling, stealing, rage, fighting, etc.). That means the addict loses all power of choice. No matter what steps he or she takes to try to avoid the poison in question, its demand will be satisfied unless profound changes occur.
Only You can Decide When It’s Time
During the life of addiction, all types of negative behaviors are acquired, and what started out as a drug problem has now become living, lifestyle, and behavioral issues, as well.
It’s not enough to see something bad and know you need to change it. If it were that easy, you would eradicate negativity, obesity, addiction, violence, and other “bad” behaviors before puberty. Unless you happen to have a level of willpower not found in addicts, you won’t be able to ‘will’ these behaviors away any more than you can just block out the craving of your addiction that compels you always to get “just one more.” That means an entire psyche shift is required.
For example, if you have a habit of interrupting people and you know you need to stop but you can’t, it may be because your mindset still tells you that what you have to say is more valid than what the person has to say.
That sounds harsh, and it does no good to judge truths. The only way to shed the negativity brought about by the choices of one’s lower self is to honestly take stock of all actions and decisions and call things what they are. The fact is that it could be any number of things, and you can only identify the specific reason(s) through a self-inventory process.
You may be highly educated on the things about which you wish to speak, and it’s easy to think that others are not. Here’s an example of an expansive point of view that would help to listen more, because it would be a motive to a seeking of answers rather than another failed attempt to override engrained (almost instinctual) behavior: “It’s true that I’m educated on many things. To assume that others are not, though, may be perceived as arrogant. Also, I only learned the things I’ve learned and perceived based on my perception of things. Somebody else may have learned and perceived something quite different than I. Could I possibly be missing out on information by always being so quick to share what I know? Also, am I wasting time giving people information they already have? If I listened more, could I provide more relevant, useful, and new information?”
Here, a door for self-examination has opened, and with it came a willingness to seek to understand one’s friends, families, and co-workers better. It’s also a gateway toward humility.
For some, 12-step recovery provides a platform for a successful life with freedom from addiction. For others, this type of recovery method either isn’t ideal, or it just isn’t enough. There is a spiritual aspect to 12-step recovery that some addicts find hard to accept at first. It’s important to know, though, that these programs are not religious, and any talk of a higher power is followed by “of your understanding.” Even atheists and agnostics find recovery in 12-step programs. Some recognize the group itself as a power greater than themselves and base their recovery on that concept.
It can be dangerous for some addicts to rely solely on 12-step meetings in the beginning. For some, at least a few weeks in rehab is imperative. It’s hard to establish a healthy set of behaviors in the same environment that sustains your current lifestyle. There also may be a factor of physical dependence on chemicals. If that’s the case, you may need to find a detox unit equipped to monitor vitals and administer weaning drugs if and when necessary.
Another consideration is that the steps are very structured. While it’s possible to go through them rather quickly, it still takes time to identify “trends” of behavior, and most sponsors only have time to meet an hour (or not more than a few) per week. During the progression of the steps, various emotions can surface. These are emotions that a sponsor chosen from an average group of recovering alcoholics may not be equipped to help you process. You may need a professional counselor to help you navigate the raw and unpredictable emotions triggered by early and ongoing recovery from drugs, alcohol, and other addictive behaviors.
Many find it extremely beneficial to couple regular psychotherapy with meeting attendance. It’s hard to share your most sacred truths (all of them) with the people closest to you, especially when you associate some of your opinions, judgments, and triggers with those you love most. Having an objective professional offering consistency to listen to your thoughts and feelings and help you digest them and transmute them into goals designed to help you reach your highest potential has a value that’s beyond measure.
When you consider the example provided in the previous section about altering your point of view, think about how much you associate behavior identification with accepting the more positive and humble outlook required to change behaviors. That’s a lot of work, and a lot of potential guilt and resentment (both inward and outward); and it’s only one example of a single defect of character. With that, hours’ worth of processing behaviors will be required to get to the heart of your highest self.